So I figured I should give a few details about how I started my company.
As I continued to make small batches of BBQ sauce for friends and family, they continued to tell me I should be selling it. I always passed this off (thanking them of course) as just complimentary, but as more and more people said that, I began to realize they meant it. I didn't know the first thing about starting a business. I did however have the fortune of knowing a few self employed people. I spoke with them and also did a bunch of research on the internet.
I talked with the Health Department to get the details on starting a home-based sauce business. Unfortunately, you can't produce it directly out of your home here in Maryland, so that left me with two options. The first option was to build, buy or rent a commercial kitchen and have it certified by the Health Department. While this would allow me to keep my recipes secret, it would take longer and cost more than I was prepared for at that time. The second option was to seek a co-packaging company and have them bottle it for me. With limited start-up capital, we went with option two.
I looked for co-packaging/bottling companies and found one I liked very close to home. The thing that I most liked other than them being local is that they were run by a small family too. We began by going over some paperwork including the proper non-disclosures. Now, since I've never done this before I also reached out to an attorney friend who, fortunately, also happened to grow up in a small family business. He helped me to look over some of the paperwork to make sure it was all in order. After that, I signed the papers and began working with Mama Vida Inc.
They were great. They tested my sauces to make sure they were within required guidelines. We went over specifics regarding the ingredients and finalized the specs. From there it was a matter of getting labels for the bottles. Mama Vida had already been working with a packaging designer so I spoke with them and they started working on some initial concepts.
Once we had the concepts for the labels I asked the opinions of friends and family. We mixed and matched, changed colors, then finally narrowed everything down to the final proofs. After the packaging designers create the printing plates, it's all set to go. Order your labels, have them delivered to the bottler and begin production.
I had my attorney file for my licenses and production began. Once I tested the batches of sauce to verify the flavor was correct, we bottled it up, loaded it on the truck and I took it off to my storage facility. Since I now had the finished products, I began selling it to friends and family who had been anxiously awaiting it and I reached out to a few local retailers.
With the help of a good friend who owns Wild Dog's Gourmet Hot Dogs I got into my first retail location. He also began using it as a topping at his business. Within a short time I was in another location and then another. Now our sauces are available in 5 retail locations in the Baltimore area.
During this time I also started working with another friend who owns a web design company, Autumn Rain Design. We got the website up and running and within a short time began taking online orders. Since it didn't get on the market till late in the season I didn't get a chance to get to many shows, but there are a few in the works this year, so you'll also be able to find us there. Once events are confirmed I'll note them below in the event section as well as on facebook and twitter. Stay tuned for more fun stuff...